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My YCAP Journey – By Shadi Matjila

In Life one goes through many hardships, sometimes those hardships become so difficult that you can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel; and all you can really do in that moment is to pray and hope for some semblance of peace. When we look for said peace we usually search for something big and magnificent, forgetting that sometimes peace can be found in the little things that we do that fill our hearts with joy. These words perfectly encapsulate my journey towards joining YCAP as a grade 10 learner at Pretoria Technical High School, and how I eventually became a support team member and one of the of the three Support Team Managers.

My high school journey was anything but easy, as the youth of today say, “Life was showing me flames”. In February of 2018 I was a victim of sexual assault for the second time in my life. In that moment I felt like my world had been turned upside down, I could not cope with the emotional turmoil that came with what happened and all the memories that were triggered by what happened. As a result my academics started taking a toll and eventually I was diagnosed with anxiety and had to take anxiety medication to help with my panic attacks. While I was trying to deal with what happened, things were not great at home. I used to confide to my favorite teacher about what was happening in my life as she had noticed that there was something wrong with me, she would later become my YCAP teacher mentor.

In March of 2018, Mrs Headbush introduced the grade 9 and 10 class representatives to the YCAP program, one of those representatives happened to be my best friend. Most of the representatives were not interested in joining the program, and so it was opened to all the learners in Grades 9 and 10 who were interested. My best friend Thato told me about the program and I decided to ask Mrs Headbush for more information, this decision ultimately resulted in me joining the YCAP team

The YCAP program became my saving grace. After joining the team, I learned a lot about being an active citizen and through it I found something I was passionate about. It reinforced my decision to study law as through the YCAP program I was exposed to the intricacies of how systems work in our school and community. The greatest thing I got from being part of the YCAP team of 2018 was a new found kinship in the friends that I made. We all became more like family than friends, and those bonds that we built are bonds that I still carry with me till this day.

We took part in YCAP for the first time as a team and school in 2018, so I was part of our schools inaugural team. Our identified problem was time management, which admittedly is something I myself struggled with. Our solution to this problem was inspired by the fact that we attended a Technical high school that specialized in engineering, and the fact that we were in the early stages of the 4th industrial revolution here in South Africa. Thus we decided to create a time management app that would help the learners in our school to manage their time better with regards to their academics. I think we did pretty well for our first time, as we won the Tshwane South district rounds, we won the Gauteng Provincial rounds and we ultimately came 4th place at the National round. We were proud of ourselves for making it to the final rounds, but we were crushed when we did not win.

I returned to YCAP in 2019 as a student mentor to the new team, as I could not actively participate due to being in Grade 11. The 2019 teams came in 1st and 2nd place respectively at the Tshwane South district rounds and the team that represented us at provincials ultimately came out 2nd place. Once again, the impact that the projects of the 2019 teams had on both our school and community was profound. The “Food for thought” team had managed to start a breakfast club where learners who did not carry food to school and did not have money to buy from the tuckshop could receive something nutritional to eat, The “#SafeSpaces” group managed to enter to partnerships with The SAPS and non-profit organizations in order to create a safe space for leaners in the school and in the community the school is situated in.

I joined the YCAP support team in 2021 as I was upgrading my matric marks because I needed to get back to doing something I was passionate about and enjoyed. I loved reading the files of the schools that took part in the program and seeing the challenges that they faced and overcome, and the impact that their project had in their school and community. It is a constant reminder that the youth are more powerful than they seem, and if they are given a chance to show their brilliance they go above and beyond. I also took part in Future Africa Ambassadors program, which further emphasized the lessons I learned about active Citizenship from YCAP.

In 2022, I was awarded a bursary from one of the sponsors, Boston City Campus, by YCAP CEO Mrs. Amanda Blankfield-Koseff to further my studies. This bursary was honestly the biggest blessing I have ever received and I am forever grateful to Mrs. Amanda for seeing potential in me and helping me to use it to its fullest. In 2023 I became one the YCAP Support team managers, and the experience and knowledge I have gained in this role has been invaluable.

Before joining YCAP I was going through a hard time in my life, but each time I joined YCAP at different stages it became that light I needed in order to see the end of the tunnel. I will forever be grateful for the profound impact that it has had in my life and I will always strive to uphold the lessons and valued I have learned throughout my YCAP journey.

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